25. The History of School Speech Pathology

“That Vision Thing”

The vision necessary for confronting IDEA legislation depended upon a correct analysis of historical facts. Such an analysis would depend on consideration of knowns and unknowns as well as a strategic plan forming and advertising correct priorities. 




In 1960s, ASHA dwelled on knowns. There was the mandate of carrying out the founders’ vision for a society of academic researchers developing speech therapists according to scientific and medical principles, excluding educator, psychologists and speech-drama teachers. There was a requirement to harness the income from training speech correction teachers to assure fiscal stability. There was a tradition of strong male leadership to set up the correct organizational structures and standards to carry out the mission. 


The effort to carry out the founders’ mission was 10 years too late.  The timing was way off. 


The civil rights era coupled with massive changes in federal priorities and spending came on very fast at a time when the old ways of thinking seemed to be correct. Whereas ASHA was committed to a narrowly understood medical viewpoint, education was the new action point. The timing to move away from education was off-key. Great energy was invested in buildings, staff, office practices, publications and regulations, which in 1950 would have been perfect timing.  Capacity was reduced through commitment to old priorities, and the organization was not nimble enough to shift priorities back to education in time for EHA 1975, even if there had been a desire to do so.


Clinical training following the traditional curriculum began to erode academic programs. Fewer doctoral graduates came out and the decline of academic research to support clinicians was eroded far too much. Academics became as powerless as school speech pathologists, whereas the ASHA organization seemed to be highly successful and the locus of decision-making. Professors did their research after hours while working far too often in the college speech and hearing clinic during the day. Training speech pathologists was king. With the emergence of certified M.A. level clinical supervisors in the academic departments, the balance of opinion shifted to the belief training was the bread and butter of the enterprise. It was difficult for motivated professors to use rooms in the speech and hearing centers to do research. Clinical personnel were responsible for space and what happened there.




In the mid 1970s the drive to carry out the founders’ vision was so strong the development of language and cognitive science was viewed as a fad rather than a paradigm shift. It was perceived as destabilizing rather than a golden opportunity to advance the field and eventually protect school slps from ignorance when 1975 arrived.  It was too hard to shake off the bias against speech correction teachers to see how knowledge was changing, and the money was coming in any way. Male leadership was directing things according to plan. Pauline Camp was still on the outside looking in.  


“What are the important trends in education,” was not asked.




A test of our notion is to see how ASHA responded to EHA 1975.  How did it interpret the policy issues at hand? A nimble correct response would show a lesson had been learned and a different vision could be set forth. The vision might embrace school practice as the new lab for future clinical vitality, one cross-fertilizing hospital speech therapy and private practice, opening up new revenue streams.





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